The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team (17-15) came into this season with expectations that were through the Ryan Center roof, but ended with injury woes and a second round Atlantic 10 Championship 67-62 loss to the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The worst-case scenario for any college team with serious NCAA tournament aspirations is getting bitten by the injury bug, especially during the first game, nay, first 10 minutes of the season. That is exactly what happened when NBA hopeful E.C. Matthews went down with a serious knee injury in the first home game of the season during a 65-42 win against American University.
Rhode Island remained focused on their season goals even with a key member of their rotation sitting on the bench in a warmup suit for basically the whole season. Although expectations were not fulfilled this year, Rams fans have a program with growth, experience and a chip on its shoulder going into the 2016 offseason.
Even with Matthews out of the equation, this season sophomore guards Jared Terrell and Jarvis Garrett proved to be one of the best duos in the conference this season. Due to their great improvement from year one to year two they were each named to the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) All-District I team. Terrell picked up the slack in scoring for Rhode Island through the regular season, averaging 13.6 points per game – good for 23rd in the A-10. Garrett grew into one of the top point guard in the A-10 vastly improving his three point percentage and assist totals. Garrett averaged 12.7 points per game, ranking third in the league in 3-point percentage.
Junior forward and defensive stalwart Hassan Martin also had another incredible season for URI, being named the 2015-16 Atlantic 10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year. This is also the second straight season in which Martin was named to the A-10 five-player All-Defensive team while also moving into second all-time in Rhode Island history with 248 career blocked shots, moving past current assistant coach Antonio Reynolds-Dean. Martin needs 78 for the program’s top spot.
With the “four pillars”, Matthews, Martin, Terrell and Garrett, each seemingly returning to Rhode Island next year with something to prove, and added depth at the guard and forward positions, next year’s team has the makings to accomplish something URI students have not seen since the late 1990s.
This team fought tooth and nail until the very end of the season, with all of the injuries and setbacks faced throughout the year, fans should be excited about what the future holds for men’s basketball.